The recent review of BC Ferries announced by Premier John Horgan sunk the hopes of at least one group of Island ferry users.
The elected regional representative for the Discovery Islands is disappointed the province will not be bringing the coastal ferry system back under ministry control, after all.
Strathcona Regional District director Jim Abram said the announcement deflated his optimism pretty quickly.
“They’re doing this review, which is great, but then they say specifically that it won’t look at giving it back to the government,” Abram says, “which is what everybody in the province has been telling them they want.”
According to the terms of reference provided by the provincial government for the review, it will examine “whether the contracted ferry services are being provided for in a manner that supports the public interest,” “consider what changes to the price cap and regulatory model would ensure the ferry system is working as efficiently and effectively as possible for all British Columbians, and, in particular, for the ferry users and communities who depend on this essential service,” and, “identify opportunities and recommend actions to enhance ferry service delivery and/or reduce costs without impacting existing service.”
Abram said he was hopeful that since the NDP campaigned on the idea of bringing ferries back under the umbrella of the Ministry of Transportation, that it might actually happen.
“John Horgan himself said to me and a group of councilors, mayors and directors at the AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities) conference when he was asked what they would do if they were elected, and he said ‘the very first thing we are going to do is tear up the Coastal Ferry Act,’” Abram said, “and that would be great, because if they tore up the Coastal Ferry Act, we’d be right back to where things were when they were working.”
If the Coastal Ferry Act was, in fact, “torn up,” Abram says, “the coastal ferries would be treated just like the inland ferries. Basically, everything would be free, just like every other part of the highway, and everybody would pay for everything, just like everything else. If you spread it across the entire province worth of people, it would be pennies. And they just keep saying it would cost too much, but they’re not even looking at it, so they don’t even know what the cost would be.”
The final review will be presented to the government by June 2018.